D-300, teachers union going back to the table on Monday

CARPENTERSVILLE – The District 300 school board and its teachers union go back to the bargaining table Monday to try and settle contract differences that have shifted toward a board proposal to hire more teachers.

The board last week offered a $5 million package that would add elementary teachers and increase teacher salaries. The package also contains teacher concessions that would, among other things, affect retirement incentives and health insurance benefits.

Board member Joe Stevens, who has been an active negotiator, said $5 million is a “rough” figure, but the package makes strides in reducing class sizes – something that union leaders have wanted since negotiations began in spring.

“We’ve made a salary offer that recognizes a 2 percent step increase that automatically went into effect this year,” Stevens said, describing the proposal. “We’ve talked about adding 32 elementary teachers that would virtually address the class-size issue.”

About $1.4 million would hire the teachers and significantly reduce class sized that average between 35 and 37 students, he said.

Stevens said the school board hopes for a response to the proposal from the teachers union, LEAD 300, during the Monday bargaining session. The step increase is a pay raise based on teachers’ classroom experience.

Union leaders disagree on the math.

LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho said her group estimates that $1.4 million would allow the district to hire in the area of 12 elementary teachers. The board’s salary proposal also doesn’t address base pay that hasn’t increased since the 2009-10 school year, she said.

Even with step increases, a teacher’s starting salary, would be “several thousands dollars” less than that of teachers in Kaneland District 302 in southwestern Kane County, Hanetho said. “Going east, the salaries go up, not going west,” she said. “We won’t be able to attract and retain quality teachers, which is one of the strategic goals of the district.”

Both Stevens and Hanetho said they are committed to negotiating a new contract. Both sides already have requested a third-party mediator to help resolve their differences.

Earlier this month, 97 percent of LEAD’s 1,300 members authorized a strike if either side declares an official impasse. Teachers in the meantime continued to be compensated under the contract that expired in June.

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